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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U. S. Firms Want Hi-Tech Exports

Executives of U. S companies in Moscow are hoping that Washington follows through on promises to end most Cold War restrictions on high-technology exports to Russia at the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations summit.


U. S. President Bill Clinton will make the proposal at his scheduled meeting on Friday with President Boris Yeltsin in Tokyo, a senior U. S. official told Reuters on Wednesday.


Executives said Thursday that because of the restrictions, Russia is losing out on vital technology that could help improve its communications network and financial markets. They also said that U. S. companies lose business because other countries export the same technologies to Russia.


During the Cold War, the United States and 16 allies heavily restricted high-technology exports to prevent communist countries from enhancing their military might through a regime known as COCOM, the Coordinating Committee on Multilateral Export Controls.


In 1989, as many as 61, 000 licenses worth $200 billion in U. S. exports had to be reviewed by the State and Commerce departments, and sometimes by the Defense Department as well. Some licenses could take a year to be granted, and many goods were off limits for exports to Eastern Europe altogether.


The end of the Cold War has brought about an easing of the restrictions and many of the original signatories have dropped their support for COCOM. The United States, however, has so far refused to eliminate them.


Rick Sample, interim general manager of Digital Equipment Corp. in Russia, said his company had lobbied heavily for a significant easing of these constraints and said he had heard rumors that the U. S. government was about to give in.


Sample said the list of goods requiring a special export license had been cut in recent years as the Cold War came to an end, but added that because technology had evolved faster, the share of products that require a license had actually increased.


He said even relatively common 486 computers with a computing speed of 50 Megahertz or higher required a license, causing delays in deliveries for up to nine months.


"It's a little unrealistic", he said. Because Russian importers buy such computers from countries that can import them freely, he said, "You can walk down the street and buy them off the shelf".


Several Digital products that require a license include networking stations, as well as some telecommunications devices and software, he said.


Several IBM personal computers and some of the medium-sized mainframes computers had fallen under the license requirement in the past two years because the technology had been updated, according to Jennifer Howe, communications manager for IBM in Moscow.


The delays needed for the licenses had caused about 40 percent of potential buyers to back out, said Sergei Kuznetsov, marketing manager for Hewlett-Packard personal computers. But he said the delay in delivery had almost disappeared in the past few weeks because the licenses were already being awarded more easily.


Reuters quoted U. S. officials as saying that they want to transform COCOM into an organization that seeks to prevent the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and conventional weapons worldwide.


Itar-Tass reported on Thursday that the G-7 had already agreed to end all restrictions by 2003, but that report could not be confirmed.